My First Communion was scheduled for a Saturday morning at the end of May. As the big day approached, my companions and I rehearsed proper behavior at Mass: how to make the sign of the cross, how to genuflect correctly, back held erect, right knee bent almost to the floor. We were drilled on when to sit and when to stand and when to kneel. For me, the hardest part, as ever, was keeping silent, the requirement that we not talk to our seatmates through the entire Mass.
The day before our First Communion, we were led into the church to make our First Confession. We had been told to examine our consciences and carefully consider the nature and number of our transgressions before reporting to the priest. For most of my friends there was little to worry about besides the usual fare for seven-year-olds: disobeying parents, talking in church, losing their temper. But I knew that in addition to my sin of entering the Episcopal church, I had committed another sin, far from ordinary. For days I plotted the best strategy for the necessary revelation. I would, I decided, immediately reveal my misdeed concerning the Episcopal church and then camouflage the other sin amid a host of smaller ones.
I opened the curtain and entered the confessional, a dark wooden booth built into the side wall of the church. As I knelt on the small, worn bench, I could hear a boy's halting confession through the wall, his prescribed penance inaudible as the panel slid open on my side and the priest directed his attention to me.
"Yes, my child," he inquired softly.
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. This is my First Confession."
"Yes, my child, and what sins have you committed?"
"Well, Father, when Roy Campanella came to town three months ago, I wanted so badly to hear him speak that I went into the Episcopal church on the corner."
"And did you participate in a service that day?"
"Oh, no, Father, Roy's talk was in the parish hall, and there was no religious service at all."
"Well, then," he said, echoing what my father had told me at the time, "there is nothing here to worry about."